Healthy and Sane

Food photography taught by a pro

February 7th, 2010 · 18 Comments · Uncategorized

Yesterday afternoon, 14 Boston food bloggers met at Gary Tardiff’s culinary photography studio for a little seminar on food photography. I felt so lucky to be able to talk and learn from a pro like Gary. He was so passionate about his work and I was day dreaming there for a moment about what it would be like to have his job. 😉 But anyways, here is a little recap of the whole day – I had a fantastic time and learned quite a bit. Let’s get to it!

So we all met at Gary’s studio around 2pm and got down to business straight away. Gary wanted to make the session as interactive as possible, but he also wanted to cover some basics. Bloggers listening intently…


Gary had a chance to look at some of our blogs before meeting us, and mentioned that one of the most common mistakes he saw was out of balance white balance. I know my pictures definitely have that yellow tint to them when I take pictures indoors. I find it to be quite warm and at time fitting, but it’s definitely not always intentional. I’m still intimidated by my super fancy camera and by relying on the automatic mode, I am definitely letting my camera make all the choices – not me. Gary actually talked about that as well – he said he often shuts the auto-focus on his camera because he wants to be forced to do the right thing. He briefly talked about exposure, aperture, shutter speed – again the message was to play with your camera and find the perfect exposure for every picture. Food doesn’t move (usually) so you have a chance to change settings until you get it “just right.”


Gary’s other “motto”:View with your eyes, not your head. He said we so often get emotional about what we see and overlook important details. On vacations, we may be so excited about finally seeing that waterfall, that we don’t realize our composition is completely wrong for that picture and we are not doing the setting justice (ps. – this was not the example he brought up – I’m just relaying the message). You can’t re-take that picture when you get home, so viewing with your eyes instead of your head will avoid awkward pictures you will regret later. Same goes to food – maybe you LOVE the plate you put your cookies on but the plate is washing them out and it’s all wrong for that particular photo. If you look at the photo and get your emotions about the plate get in the way, you overlook these details. Learning to train your eye to be critical over your pictures, instead of letting your head get in the way, will improve the quality of your pictures (you still have to do the work but at the end you’ll likely end up with the photo just the way you intended it to be…).

I guess those were the few messages from Gary. We then got a little tour of the studio. It’s also clearly about having the right props!

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How jealous is everyone of you bloggers about Gary’s plate collection?


We were practically drooling over this stash… and these are his extras! His clients usually supply whatever he needs for the photo shoot.

Gary is also constantly on a lookout for different woods – he found this guy on a side walk somewhere. It sure would make for a beautiful rustic background…


His food photos were all over the studio. Definitely pieces of art!


And then we got to work! A few girls brought some food we could all practice on. Adrienne’s sourdough loaf was our first victim 😉





Action! Oh wait, we need to set it up first…

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Light from the back, shining through a vellum lined frame (for a softer glow), a few tweaks playing with shadows…


And voila! (Gary’s picture looked much better, this was just a quick one from me)


We did a similar set up for Kelly’s granola filled jar


This one was a little more advanced because the clear jar would disappear in the background if you’re not careful. That’s why Gary added the black paper for the jar to reflect off something – see how the edge on the left is defined? The mirror on the left also brightened up the front of the picture by reflecting the light that was coming from the back. It was all super educational to see his thought process in action!


One more quick set up with Jen’s m&m cookies


Gary’s version of the picture…


I learned so much! I don’t have this cool set up at home, but I think I am much more aware of light manipulation, shadows, etc…. and I need to learn how to use my camera so that my white balance and exposures are perfect! Lots and lots to learn and nothing makes it better than practice. Good thing I eat every day so there are plenty of opportunities for that 😉

We mingled a bit after the lecture and enjoyed some yummy treats. Jen’s cookies finally met their fate…mmm cookies


Sophie brought some light Pavlova cookies


And Lauren shared some of her homemade granola with us…


I was starving and this little handful was perfect to tie me over until linner (lunch/dinner) :)


14 food bloggers united!!

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Nicole, Lauren, Shannon, Cara, Jen, Kelly, Adrienne, Sophie, Jen, me, Kerstin, Chels, Mary Kate and Sues. Phew!

Thank you Kerstin for organizing this and thank you Gary for donating your time and knowledge to all of us. It was an amazing experience and I am even more motivated now to work on my photography and food styling skills so that I can make all my readers extra hungry! 😆

PS. Gary, I see that Tatte is your client. Do you get free nut boxes?? I’m infinitely jealous! 😀

What would you ask a professional food photographer?

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty

    Awesome post! What a great experience!! Thank you for sharing!!

  • #2 - Madeline - Greens and Jeans

    What a great day! I’ve been wanting to bone up on my photography skills and you guys got to learn from a true pro! So cool!

  • #3 - Erin (Travel, Eat, Repeat)

    What a fun event! He has such a cool job and you’re right, that plate collection makes me extremely jealous.

  • #4 - Adrienne

    Nice recap, Elina! I had so much fun. And now I have a new project to work on: making vellum frames. :)

  • #5 - Run Sarah

    What an amazing event! Sounds like a great opportunity. Love the plate collection too!

  • #6 - Nicole

    Loved your recap! You always do such a great job with that! And the pictures you took from yesterday afternoon came out great. You are going to be a natural in no time! It was great to see you and I hope to see you soon!

    Take care,

  • #7 - Eve @ nutritionbyeve

    Sounds like a great opportunity! My husband just bought us a Cannon 5D SLR and he won’t let me touch it until I either read about it or take a lesson :) He’s been practicing a lot so he can take tons of pictures when our little girl comes. I’m scared just looking at it. But I should learn b/c my photos need help!

  • #8 - Hangry Pants

    That is the coolest blogging event – especially for you with your new camera! I would ask … please help me learn how to use this thing!

  • #9 - Kerstin

    What a fantastic recap! Your photos are all amazing too! We’ll have to plan another blogger event soon :)

  • #10 - Ariana

    That’s very interesting – I liked the part that we should try to see something with our eyes – I always forget about this issue.
    I would ask a professional foodphotographer how he makes great pictures of food that looks normaly ugly (cooked spinach, brown sauces etc.) :-)

  • #11 - Jen

    Great recap. You definitely covered everything that I took away from Saturday. It was great to meet you!

  • #12 - Sophie @ yumventures

    It was so nice meeting you in person too! And I agree with everyone, I’m off to make my own vellum frames =) We will definitely have to plan another meet up soon. Great recap!

  • #13 - Jenny @ Newly Wed and Well Fed

    Great review! You really captured the day. Nice meeting you!

  • #14 - Ash @ Good Taste. Healthy Me

    That is so exciting and fun! I would love to learn about all that!

  • #15 - Lara (Thinspired)

    HOW FUN!! What a perfect activity for a food blogger meet-up! Love the finished product on the cookie photo. That is so inspiring to spend more time on my food photos. If only I didn’t want to the food before it gets cold 😉

  • #16 - Liz

    That looks like so much fun! I love the plate collection, but I’m even more jealous of the lighting setup :) My apartment gets very little sunlight and none in the kitchen or dining room. I’ve thought about getting a light box or constructing a photography area, but, in my small apartment, where would I store such a thing? Plus I think the cats would destroy it…. At least I’m getting better at digitally correcting the yellow lol

  • #17 - Elina

    Ariana – I think he’d suggest to focus on something that’s actually pretty and then let the imagination fill in the blank. :)

    Liz – I definitely have the same space problem… 😕

  • #18 - Memoria

    Those plates!!! Yes, I’m so jealous!!! Wow. Great recap! Thanks! Jen’s cookies look amazing.